• The National Assembly was considering this week the bill to accelerate the revival of nuclear power, which is expected to be widely adopted next week.
  • The ecologists, and in particular EELV, are opposed to this revival and propose a Citizens' Convention to, according to them, finally organize a fair debate on the issue.
  • For Marine Tondelier, the national secretary of EELV, the France has fallen behind "climaticide" because of its choice of nuclear, to the defenders of renewable energies. She answers 20 Minutes.

This is a subject on which the government has no trouble finding a majority: the revival of nuclear power is almost a consensual subject, from the RN to the majority via LR. Communists and some socialists can also be seduced. But Europe-Ecology - The Greens, with Marine Tondelier at their head, want to raise the anti-nuclear flag in France. The new national secretary of the ecologists proposes in particular a Citizens' Convention on the issue. She explains to 20 Minutes why parliamentarians are on the wrong track.

The Assembly was considering this week the bill on accelerating the revival of nuclear energy in France. A large majority is expected to adopt it. Polls are also in favour of nuclear power. Is this a losing battle for you?

Polls are much more favourable to renewables than to nuclear. We make people believe that we are going to do both: this is false. Nuclear power costs us so much that it prevents us from developing renewables. The problem is that these new EPRs [the government wants to build six] will not help us meet the Paris Agreement, which commits us to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Because these EPRs will not be built, at best, before 2035 according to the official word of the government, and 2040 according to leaked reports in their possession. And they never managed to build a single one! The one in Flamanville was supposed to open in 2012 and cost 3 billion euros, we are in 2023, it is still not open, and we are at 20 billion. Parliamentarians can vote what they want, I bet that these EPRs will not be in operation in 2035 or 2040.

Greens have long lamented the lack of debate on our energy strategy. This time you are calling for a Citizens' Convention, on the model of the one on climate...

I am amazed at how difficult it is to have a serious and rational public debate on the subject. We have a nuclear lobby that spends a "crazy money", which has very aggressive relays on social networks. But if we took 150 randomly selected people to work on the subject, by making sure that they make their own opinion, there is no reason for them to make the choice that parliamentarians will make.

Can Emmanuel Macron accede to this request?

When 3 million people march in the streets for pensions and he does not listen, we say "what's the point?". But if it does not organize it, others can do so: the Economic, Social and Environmental Council for example, or trusted third parties. We are putting the subject on the table, and all possible means will be explored to make this happen.

One of the current criticisms concerns the use of water to cool the reactors, against a backdrop of drought...

A first problem is the use of water by nuclear power: certainly, a good part is returned to the river, but 10 ° C warmer than the water withdrawn, which makes it evaporate more. This is harming ecosystems, and it's going to get worse with global warming. But there is also water consumed by nuclear power plants, that is to say used by the production process and not returned to the river: according to official government figures, it represents 20 to 30% of total water consumption in France, more than all domestic uses. And by 2050, there will be 40% less flow in French rivers...

The French Nuclear Energy Company (Sfen) proposes to install the power plants by the sea to remedy this problem...

The ecologists proposed and passed in the Senate an amendment that prevents the new EPRs from being put in flood zones. This concerns the Blayais, Gravelines and Penly power plants, all by the sea. We forget that any EPRs that would open in 2040 will be in operation until 2100. On an industry as dangerous as that of nuclear, choosing to install them on the coasts is to put oneself in the hands of fate.

As you mentioned, such a massive and rapid revival of nuclear power raises industrial and technical questions. But wouldn't they be the same in the event of massification of renewable energy production?

First, whatever the scenario, nuclear or renewable, we see that we will not be able to continue this headlong rush to use more and more energy. We must activate a sobriety plan, thanks to the thermal rehabilitation of housing and by reflecting on our uses. Then, the question is to know what effort we make, with what energy, and with what means. It is not simple, because nothing is simple when it comes to energy. That is why there is a real conflict between nuclear and renewable energies. Germany, for example, will be 80% renewable by 2030, and is already at 49%. This shows that it is possible to rapidly increase a country's capacity in this area if it is decided.

She embarked on this path long before us...

If we never start, it will always be too late. The France had committed to 23% renewable energy by 2022 with the European Commission. It was already very small arm, and we are the only country in Europe that has not respected this commitment. In 2022, we were only at 19%. It is shameful, and we are missing out on enormous industrial and commercial potential. Far too much time has been wasted in operational deployment, but also in research and development. If we had put a quarter of the amount used on nuclear energy into renewable energies, we would have saved so much time. Unfortunately, our absolute, irrational faith in nuclear power has caused us to fall behind dangerously and climaticidely.

The energy crisis, notably linked to the war in Ukraine, seems to have brought French opinion closer to nuclear power, even those who have ecological convictions...

The nature of the public debate on the subject and the money deployed by the pro-nuclear lobby, particularly in France, are bearing fruit. However, we must explain to the French that half of the nuclear reactors were shut down this autumn, and it is not because of the ecologists. Because it did not work, because they are in maintenance, because there are microcracks, defects, because this nuclear industry has itself put itself in a dead end. This demonstrates the fact that betting on nuclear power is irresponsible.

You have launched the Estates General of Ecology with a view to transforming political ecology into a mass movement. What is it concretely?

Many people do not want to get involved in one political party, not ours, not another. On the other hand, more and more people are environmentalists in the back of their minds, voters of a day or forever, people worried about their children and grandchildren... Those that Bruno Latour called "the ecological class", potentially the majority in this country. But this class is not self-aware, not organized, while on the other hand, they are.

My job is to create this place for all these people and give them the keys to the truck. We have provided means to express oneself, a large popular online survey on lesecologistes.fr, grievance books, workshops. We go to meet the inhabitants, the ruralities, the popular neighborhoods.

At the end of this listening phase, there will be a phase of reflection: people drawn by lot will decide the questions that will arise. This will end in the summer with a major refoundation convention to launch this new movement which we hope will have, before the end of the mandate, a million supporters.

What is your assessment of these last three months of mobilization against the pension reform?

At first, I refuse to talk about it as if it were over, because I think it all starts. The coming weeks are unpredictable. Secondly, what happened goes much further than the subject of pensions: the France raised its head after a series of humiliations. This reform was one humiliation too many. Something was set in motion: inter-union work that had not existed for a very long time, massive support from the French for trade union action, work between unions and progressive political parties.

Even if the reform is well implemented?

The only possible defeat is that of the government. Either because they will be forced to withdraw this reform, or because they will continue to pass in force against nine active French out of ten who reject their text and that it can only go wrong. I hear a lot of people say: "We were told that we needed an exemplary social movement. We kept to ourselves. But if parading in calm, appeasement, being polite and saying thank you does not work, we will also draw the consequences. "

I want to warn about this, in a context where we have a President of the Republic elected against Marine Le Pen with only 58%, thanks to the mobilization of people like me who know what the far right in power is. All this will leave traces. Emmanuel Macron is the guarantor of the unity of this country, of the cohesion of its institutions, and he is in the process of fracturing it. I do not know how he can ignore that in view of 2027.

  • Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV)
  • Nuclear
  • EPR
  • Nuclear waste